Murder on the Orient Express
Agatha Christie
Contributed by Ariane Heyne
Part 2 Chapter 10-12
Summary

Chapter 10

The Italian is brought in for questioning. Poirot soon discovers that he is actually a naturalized American. His name is Antonio Foscanelli. For the last ten years he has lived in America, and he works at Ford.  He says that he has limited knowledge of the Armstrong case or the Armstrongs. The night the murder occurred, Antonio sat with Hardman, the American, and then headed to his compartment. He is woken up in the night by John Bull, his compartment mate. John Bull is groaning. Antonio is a smoker of cigarettes.

Chapter 11

Mary Debenham comes into the dining car to be questioned. She is dressed neatly in a black suit, and she acts in the way Poirot thought that she would. Mary informs Poirot that she is twenty-six years old and that she is from England. On the night of the murder, she “went to bed and slept.” She reports that she woke up at five o’clock in the morning, when she had the feeling that the train had stopped. Upon peering out her door, she witnessed a woman wearing a scarlet kimono down the corridor. The woman was wearing a shingle cap, and she appeared tall and thin. Mary doesn’t seem very affected by the murder. She saw Ratchett only the day before, and she didn’t really notice him. Poirot asks after Mary’s roommate, Greta Ohlsson. Mary informs him that she is nice woman and owns a natural wool dressing gown in a brown shade. Poirot says that Mary has a pale mauve dressing gown, and it is the same one that he saw her wearing on the train to Stamboul. While Mary is leaving, she communicates to Poirot that Greta is very concerned that she is suspected because she was the last person who saw Ratchett alive. Mary witnessed Greta leave to bring an aspirin to Mrs. Hubbard at 10:30 and come back about five minutes later. Poirot inquires of the doctor whether Ratchett could have been killed so early. The doctor indicates that he could not. Poirot declares to Mary that Greta is not a suspect.

Chapter 12

Poirot talks with the doctor and M. Bouc about why he suspects Mary Debenham. Poirot is suspicious of her because of the conversation he overheard between Mary and Colonel Arbuthnot when on the train to Stamboul. Another reason is because he believes that murder was plotted by a person with a cool and calculating personality, and Mary Debenham fits that description. The last passenger is asked to come in for questioning. This is Hildegarde Schmidt, Princess Dragomiroff’s maid. Poirot has a gentle and kind demeanor with Ms. Schmidt, and this is rather different than this conversation with Mary Debenham. He inquires what she did the previous night, when the murder occurred. Hildegarde fell asleep and was woken up by an attendant who informed her that the Princess needed attention. She put on some clothing and walked to the Princess’s room. She then gave the Princess a massage and read to her until she was able to sleep. After that, she went back to her compartment and went back to sleep. Hildegarde saw the conductor in the corridor coming out of a compartment that lies between two or three doors away from the Princess. The conductor almost collided with her and said he was sorry. While Mrs. Hubbard’s bell was ringing, he failed to answer it. Poirot summons in the sleeping car attendants, but Hildegarde is unable to recognize any of them as being the man who she bumped into the previous evening. Hildegarde informs Poirot that it was a small and dark man who she bumped into.

Hildegarde gets tears in her eyes when she discusses the Armstrong case. She seems to be very moved. She does not own the handkerchief discovered in Ratchett’s room and declares to Poirot that she is unaware of who the owner is. Poirot notices some hesitation in her vote.

Analysis

Hercule Poirot is one of mystery fiction’s greatest detectives. Like other detectives, he transcends the chaos of the case and uses his intellect and resolve to solve the problem at hand. Poirot’s job is to put back in place the order that has been destroyed on the train by gathering evidence with the necessary authority and detachment required to let him think about the suspects and events in a rational manner. Unlike it would be if he were still a member of the Belgian police force, his independent position lets him operate in an independent way. Poirot possesses intellectual and moral authority. He is a detective, and as such his objective is to re-establish order and fight crime and evil.

In part three of Chapter 3, the validity of Poirot’s intellectual authority is proven. This is where the thoughts of Poirot are compared with M. Bouc and Dr. Constantine. When the men ponder the facts of the case thus far, M. Bouc and the doctor are confused and baffled. They are hardly able to think about the problem at hand. As the men sit and daydream, Poirot stays focus. He is virtually motionless until he’s able to find an answer. His real challenge is to think in the same way a murderer would, a murderer who is smarter than Dr. Constantine and M. Book.

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